More than 1000 tea workers' families have been living a miserable life since the authorities shut Rema tea garden in Habiganj's Chunarughat upazila following a clash with tea workers on March 5.
Around 1200 workers became unemployed after the tea garden remained closed. Of them, 395 are permanent tea workers.
On March 5, the tea workers met the manager of the garden and placed their longstanding 11-point demand including payment of arrears and festival allowances, said Tanu Munda, president of Bangladesh Tea Labour Union, Rema tea garden unit.
"At the time, the garden authorities bargained with us to meet the demands, triggering a clash," he said, adding that five people, including the manager, were injured during the clash.
After the incident, the authorities shut the tea garden and the workers became unemployed, said Tanu, adding that the dispensary inside the garden also remained closed since then.
Not only this, manager Dilip Sarkar also filed a case with Chunarughat Police Station against 25 tea workers leaders to harass them, he said.
They have been observing different demonstration programmes including protest rally and human chain on the garden premises demanding reopening of the tea garden since March 5, said Tanu.
Many workers fell ill from starvation as they have been not getting their wages for the last 21 days, he said, adding that even the sick workers are not getting free medicine and treatment as the dispensary remained closed.
The poor tea workers also stopped sending their children to school for want of money, said Dipali Baraik, another tea worker leader of the garden.
Nirmal Chandra Deb, a local union parishad member, said the tea workers have been observing different demonstration progrmammes to meet their 11-point demand for the last six months, but the demands are yet to be realised.
They also submitted memorandum to the Habiganj deputy commissioner through Chunarughat upazila nirbahi officer in this regard, said Nirmal.
Tea labour union's leaders have recently arranged a meeting with the owner and officials of the garden to resolve the problem but it remained unsolved, said Nipen Paul, central joint secretary of Bangladesh Tea Labour Union.
Tea worker leader Dipali Baraik said "Some social organisations came to give us face masks, but I told them we need food not mask."
Tea worker Arun Das Painka said each permanent worker will get Tk 5100 arrears but they are yet to get the payment.
This correspondent could not reach manager of the tea garden Dilip Sarkar for his comments despite repeated attempts.
Monjur Rahman, owner of the tea garden, said as the tea workers went on work abstention, they are not joining work. If the workers come to join work, the garden will remain open.
Habiganj Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Kamrul Hasan said they are trying their best to resolve the matter. They have already allocated three tonnes of rice for the tea workers.